Accuracy, fairness as important as freedom of media: British media expert

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ISLAMABAD, Nov 10 (APP):The international media regulation expert and former head of standards at British regulator OfCom Chris Banatvala Friday said fairness , accuracy and impartiality were as important as freedom of media.
He was talking to electronic media journalists at an interactive session organized by Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) at its headquarters here.
He said media had to see how it was handling sensitive information without compromising freedom of media.
The expert said OfCom wanted to learn from experiences of Pakistani regulator and media organizations.
The broadcasters should be free of commercial and political influences, he added.
Discussing the issue of independence of PEMRA, he said a statutory body like PEMRA was answerable to the Parliament.
He said Pakistani mobile and telecommunication sector was growing fast, providing multiple platforms to people for accessing news.
He said freedom was subjected to certain qualifications all over the world, adding freedom should be always exercised with responsibility.
Banatvala said nor media could make unsubstantiated allegations without providing any proof nor it could infringe privacy of citizens.
Airing allegations without proof was a breach of code of conduct, he remarked.
He said in UK, it was illegal to incite and express hatred, adding a broadcaster could not express his own views or a political party could not own a broadcasting station in his country.
To a question from a television anchor, he said in UK, broadcasters had the freedom to criticize judiciary, military and Parliament but the criticism should be based on evidence and not mere allegations.
“Either media can reflect on society or it can lead. It is a choice available to it”
He said in Britain when reputation of a broadcaster suffered, its finances also suffered, adding PEMRA Act was a good starting point for regulation of media.
He said in a particular year, Ofcom received 20,000 complaints, and in 300 cases, broadcasters were found to be in violation of rules while ten of them were fined.
He said the judiciary in UK could not give deadlines to OfCom about complaints received by it.
Chairman PEMRA Absar Alam said 500 cases of stay orders against PEMRA decisions, were pending in the courts.
He agreed that PEMRA should do more due diligence while granting broadcasting licenses.
He concurred that PEMRA should create an index so that the public could judge the credibility and fairness of broadcasters.
Some anchorpersons expressed their concern over some media outlets which were operating without any apparent revenue from advertisements and had unknown sources for funding.
Chairman PEMRA pointed out that Pakistan television channels operating abroad follow laws of those countries, adding the channels should also respect the Pakistani laws.
The participants agreed that there was a need to amend laws of PEMRA.